SASKATCHEWAN: WILDER­NESS AD­VEN­TURE, RU­RAL CHARM AND UR­BAN VIBES

Saskatchewan’s ap­peal lies in its tremen­dous ar­ray of land­scapes, cul­ture, and travel dis­cov­er­ies. Ex­pe­ri­ence the ru­ral charm of Canada’s agri­cul­tural heart­land. In­dulge in the ur­ban plea­sures of its fast-grow­ing cities. Or ven­ture off the beaten track to

Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY ROBIN AND AR­LENE KARPAN

NA­TURE AT ITS FINEST

Head south to ride the open range in some of the largest ex­panses of rare na­tive grass­lands left in North Amer­ica, ex­plore rugged bad­lands or ven­ture north to choose among 100,000 lakes fa­mous for fish­ing, and a bound­less net­work of un­spoiled wild rivers. Then there are unique land­scapes such as the Cypress Hills with its en­chant­ing mix of high­lands, grass­lands and for­est (www.cy­presshills.com), or the spire-like Sand­cas­tles for­ma­tion of Lake Diefen­baker.

Saskatchewan is the sand dune cap­i­tal of Canada, boast­ing both the largest and sec­ond largest dunes in the coun­try, plus a few oth­ers thrown in for va­ri­ety. The vast, other-worldly Athabasca Sand Dunes are some of the largest ac­tive dunes this far north any­where in the world. Sit­u­ated along the south shore of Lake Athabasca in a pris­tine north­ern set­ting, these dunes sup­port some 50 rare plants and of­fer the ul­ti­mate wilder­ness ad­ven­ture.

A RICH LEGACY

With lo­ca­tions in Saska­toon, Moose Jaw, North Bat­tle­ford and York­ton, the Western De­vel­op­ment Mu­seum is the most prom­i­nent chron­i­cler of Saskatchewan’s early years (www.wdm.ca). The Hep­burn Mu­seum of Wheat, a half-hour north of Saska­toon, makes it easy to ex­pe­ri­ence that most iconic prairie sym­bol—the tra­di­tional wooden grain el­e­va­tor. Two na­tional his­toric sites, Fort Walsh and Fort Bat­tle­ford, bring to life the early days of the North-West Mounted Po­lice, and their role in es­tab­lish­ing law and or­der in the West (www.parkscanada. gc.ca/fort­walsh; www.parkscanada.gc.ca/ bat­tle­ford). Visi­tors are al­ways awe-struck by the re­mark­able rare book col­lec­tion at the Athol Mur­ray Col­lege of Notre Dame in Wilcox, just south of Regina. It houses the largest col­lec­tion of 13th to 17th cen­tury books and manuscripts in Canada—ev­ery­thing from orig­i­nal trea­tises of philoso­phers and saints to hand­writ­ten de­crees by popes and kings. To re­ally go back in time, as much as 6,000 years, head to Wanuskewin Her­itage Park in a scenic val­ley on Saska­toon’s north­ern out­skirts (www.wanuskewin.com). It is con­sid­ered among the best ex­am­ples of pre-con­tact oc­cu­pa­tion sites on the North Amer­i­can Great Plains. An­cient ar­chae­o­log­i­cal finds in­clud­ing a bi­son kill site and medicine wheel meld with a vi­brant present-day Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture. Wanuskewin Her­itage Park has been named to Canada's ten­ta­tive list for UNESCO World Her­itage sites.

EN­JOY­ING THE BEST

Given that Saskatchewan is a ma­jor food pro­ducer, it is not sur­pris­ing that folks here like to eat well. With a cui­sine re­flect­ing lo­cal prod­ucts and the prov­ince’s di­verse eth­nic makeup, there are more food-cen­tred events than you can shake a skewer stick at. Try Mort­lach’s Saska­toon Berry Fes­ti­val (www.mort­lach.ca) or Saska­toon’s Taste of Saskatchewan (www. tas­te­of­saskatchewan.ca).

Calling Saskatchewan golf-crazy is an un­der­state­ment; there are more cour­ses per capita than any­where in the coun­try. Choose from hid­den gems in small com­mu­ni­ties to fa­mous award-win­ners such as Dakota Dunes Golf Links (www. dako­tadunes.ca), named among the top pub­lic cour­ses in Canada by SCOREGolf.

For an ex­ten­sive list­ing, see www.sask golfer.com.

WHAT’S NEW

The Re­mai Mod­ern is a new mu­seum of con­tem­po­rary art in Saska­toon. With a prime lo­ca­tion over­look­ing the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, it prom­ises a unique per­spec­tive on art and cul­ture in the 21st cen­tury (www.re­maimod­ern.org).

Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the wild prairie has be­come a lot more con­ve­nient and com­fort­able. Camp­grounds in both the West and East Blocks of Grass­lands Na­tional Park have had ma­jor up­grades, with the ad­di­tion of elec­tri­cal sites and oTENTiks—a cross be­tween a tent and a rus­tic cabin—al­low­ing you to camp with­out bring­ing your own tent or camper (www.pc.gc.ca/grass­lands).

Down­ward Goat Yoga is a new of­fer­ing at Grotto Gar­dens Coun­try Mar­ket near Maple Creek. Yoga ses­sions have a unique twist with dwarf goats wan­der­ing around the par­tic­i­pants go­ing through their yoga rou­tines. This con­nec­tion with na­ture adds to the feel­ing of calm and re­lax­ation (www. grot­tog­a­r­dens.ca).

CITY LIGHTS

Regina’s heart is Was­cana Cen­tre, one of the largest ur­ban parks in North Amer­ica and home to sev­eral key at­trac­tions in­clud­ing the Saskatchewan Leg­isla­tive Build­ing, lined by an im­pres­sive sum­mer flower gar­den; the Saskatchewan Science Cen­tre and Kramer IMAX Theatre; and the Royal Saskatchewan Mu­seum, in­ter­pret­ing ev­ery­thing from the Age of Di­nosaurs to Saskatchewan’s di­verse land­scapes and wildlife, and Abo­rig­i­nal Peo­ples link to the land (www.was­cana.sk.ca). Gov­ern­ment House, with its im­pres­sive Ed­war­dian Gar­den, cap­tures a by­gone era when this was the res­i­dence of the Lieu­tenant Gover­nor (www.gov­ern­men­t­house.gov. sk.ca). Regina is fa­mous as home of the RCMP, where Moun­ties have trained since 1885. The RCMP Her­itage Cen­tre show­cases the his­tory of this world-renowned po­lice force (www.rcm­phc.com).

Saska­toon’s most defin­ing fea­ture is its beau­ti­ful river­bank along the South Saskatchewan River—home to parks, walk­ing

trails, nu­mer­ous fes­ti­vals and the pop­u­lar River Land­ing de­vel­op­ment in the south down­town (www.tourism­saska­toon.com). For a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of the heart of Saska­toon, climb aboard the Prairie Lily river­boat for a one-hour river cruise, or opt for a Sun­day brunch or din­ner cruise (www. thep­rairielily.com).

Moose Jaw has cap­i­tal­ized on its Roar­ing Twen­ties’ past when it was a hot­bed for Pro­hi­bi­tion-era boot­leg­ging and gang­ster ac­tiv­ity. The Tun­nels of Moose

Jaw runs tours recre­at­ing this colour­ful time when Al Capone was ru­moured to have been a reg­u­lar visi­tor (www.tun­nel­sof moose­jaw.com).

THE GREAT OUT­DOORS

Saskatchewan is known as a stel­lar canoeing des­ti­na­tion with ev­ery­thing from adrenalinepump­ing white­wa­ter to tran­quil­ity in stun­ning wilder­ness. Churchill River Ca­noe Out­fit­ters is the go-to source for guided trips, equip­ment ren­tals and ad­vice (www. churchill­river­ca­noe.com). Get a taste for ranch life in Cypress Hills' cowboy coun­try where the His­toric Reesor Ranch of­fers ev­ery­thing from trail rides to cat­tle drives (www.reesor­ranch.com).

The fish­ing in Saskatchewan is leg­endary, where tro­phy-sized catches are prac­ti­cally taken for granted. For the ul­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence, head to a re­mote fly-in lodge for a com­bi­na­tion of ex­cep­tional fish­ing and resort-style pam­per­ing in pris­tine forested lake­lands. The Saskatchewan Com­mis­sion of Pro­fes­sional Out­fit­ters lists sport fish­ing op­er­a­tors that meet high stan­dards (www.scpo.ca ).

Sit­u­ated on the Cen­tral North Amer­i­can Mi­gra­tory Flyway, Saskatchewan is a bird­watcher’s dream. Among the eas­i­est hotspots to visit is Chap­lin Lake, right be­side the Trans-Canada High­way. The lake is so sig­nif­i­cant that the Western Hemi­sphere Shore­bird Re­serve Net­work named it a Site of Hemi­spheric Im­por­tance. Each spring, a hun­dred thou­sand mi­grat­ing

shore­birds of some 30 species stop here to feed on their north­ward mi­gra­tion, in­clud­ing half the world’s sander­lings. Learn more from the ex­hibits at the Chap­lin Na­ture Cen­tre or take in a tour (www. chap­lin­tourism.com).

HER­ITAGE AND CUL­TURE

Fol­low driv­ing tours through the Trails of 1885 to re­live a chal­leng­ing era in the de­vel­op­ment of the West, when dis­ap­pear­ance of the buf­falo and the in­creas­ing pace of set­tle­ment led to un­rest by some Abo­rig­i­nal bands and the Métis un­der Louis Riel (www.trail­sof1885.com).

A great way to get in touch with Saskatchewan’s con­tem­po­rary Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture is to at­tend a pow­wow. Pow­er­ful drum­ming, chant­ing singers and swirling dancers in bril­liant out­fits make for an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence. Pow­wows carry on tra­di­tions, but also serve as so­cial gath­er­ings and dance com­pe­ti­tions. Above all, they are a lot of fun. One of the big­gest is the an­nual Spring Pow­wow at Regina’s First Na­tions Univer­sity (www.fnuniv.ca/pow­wow).

Saskatchewan cul­ture is de­fined by its rich mix­ture of eth­nic back­grounds. Saska­toon’s Ukrainian Mu­seum of Canada, for ex­am­ple, chron­i­cles the con­tri­bu­tions of this prom­i­nent seg­ment of Saskatchewan’s makeup (www.umc.sk.ca). In north­east Saskatchewan, find out more about the Doukhobors at the Na­tional Doukho­bor Her­itage Vil­lage at Vere­gin.

MUST SEE, MUST DO

Camp, rent a teepee, or stay in an oTENTik in Grass­lands Na­tional Park to ex­pe­ri­ence the wild prairie at its finest (www.parks canada.gc.ca/grass­lands).

Wit­ness one of Na­ture’s most awe­some spec­ta­cles as hun­dreds of thou­sands of mi­grat­ing geese, cranes and other wa­ter­fowl stage in late Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber. Hotspots in­clude Last Moun­tain Lake Na­tional Wildlife Area and the Quill Lakes In­ter­na­tional Bird Area.

Chal­lenge your­self on Saskatchewan’s long­est doc­u­mented hike, the 120-km (75-mi.) Bo­real Trail across Meadow Lake Pro­vin­cial Park’s pic­ture-per­fect forested lake­lands. Ded­i­cated back­coun­try camp­sites make for a true wilder­ness ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Great Sand Hills are Canada’s sec­ond largest sand dunes, eclipsed only by Saskatchewan’s re­mote Athabasca Sand Dunes. These, how­ever, are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble; sim­ply drive right up to mas­sive walls of sand be­side the road, then go for a hike. Set the stage with a stop at the Great Sand­hills Mu­seum & In­ter­pre­tive Cen­tre in Scep­tre, then fol­low the signs south to the mag­i­cal land­scape (www.great­sand­hills mu­seum.com).

SCENIC DRIVES

With di­verse land­scapes and enough roads to cir­cle the equa­tor four times, Saskatchewan is tai­lor-made for hit­ting the open road.

Drive a third of the way across Saskatchewan while never leav­ing the pic­turesque Qu'Ap­pelle Val­ley.

Wan­der Cac­tus Hills back­roads through one of the world's largest glacial push ridges, sur­pris­ingly close to Regina and Moose Jaw.

Rather than the busy main high­way be­tween Saska­toon and Regina, take a route past the east­ern edge of Lake Diefen­baker. En­joy lakeshore and river val­leys, spec­tac­u­lar sand dunes, and parks of­fer­ing hik­ing, golf­ing, and fish­ing.

Sev­eral routes are out­lined in the new guide­book, Saskatchewan's Best Scenic Drives (www.park­land­pub­lish­ing.com).

FAM­ILY FUN

While young­sters may be im­pressed by di­nosaur repli­cas, noth­ing com­pares to see­ing the “real” thing mov­ing and roar­ing. Named Mega­munch by lo­cal school chil­dren, the half-sized ro­botic Tyran­nosaurus rex is the most kid-friendly high­light of Regina’s Royal Saskatchewan Mu­seum. Kids are even in­vited to friend Mega­munch on Face­book— if they dare (www.roy­al­saskmu­seum.ca).

Quick Fact

LAST MOUN­TAIN LAKE NA­TIONAL WILDLIFE AREA IS THE OLD­EST BIRD SANC­TU­ARY IN

NORTH AMER­ICA.

1,163,900Reginawww.tourism­saskatchewan.comRegina In­ter­na­tional Air­port, 8 km (5 mi.) from down­townSkyxe, Saska­toon Air­port, 6 km (4 mi.) from down­town

GRASS­LANDS NA­TIONAL PARK DARK SKY PRE­SERVE • PARKS CANADA/RYAN BRAY

DRIFT SIDE­WALK CAFÉ, SASKA­TOON • TOURISM SK/CHRIS HENDRICKSON PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

SUN­SET RE­TREAT CER­E­MONY, RCMP HER­ITAGE CEN­TRE, REGINA • TOURISM SK/GREG HUSZAR PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

REGINA • SHUT­TER­STOCK/HEN­RYK SADURA

PRINCE AL­BERT NA­TIONAL PARK • PARKS CANADA/KEVIN HOG­A­RTH

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